New Delhi, September 6
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana to meet and negotiate an amicable settlement to the vexed issue of Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal that has defied any solution for decades despite several rounds of litigation.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked the Union Jal Shakti Ministry to call a meeting of the two CMs for the purpose. Seeking a report on the progress, it posted the matter for hearing in January 2023.
“Water is a natural resource and living beings must learn to share it — whether individuals or states. The matter cannot be looked at from the point of view of only one city or one state. It is natural wealth to be shared and how it is to be shared is a mechanism to be worked out,” the Bench said.
Attorney General KK Venugopal said Punjab was not cooperating in the matter. The Centre had written a letter to the new Chief Minister in April, but there was no response, he said. Earlier on July 28, 2020 also, the Supreme Court had asked the two states to attempt a negotiated settlement.
On behalf of Haryana, senior counsel Shyam Divan and Additional Advocate General Anish Gupta demanded execution of the 2002 decree in favour of Haryana, saying several rounds of negotiations had failed to bring results.
Advocate JS Chhabra, representing Punjab, assured the top court that it would cooperate in finding a negotiated settlement to the problem.
“Either they sit and talk or the court will order execution of the decree…. These issues should not be allowed to fester…. It will allow forces that may be inimical to the country to act and interfere,” the Bench said, directing the parties to cooperate.
Punjab has been demanding a negotiated settlement between the two states with the help of the Centre, while Haryana maintained it could not be made to wait indefinitely despite having a decree in its favour.
Issue lingering for decades
1976: Centre decides to construct SYL canal. Punjab moves SC
1982: Indira lays stone of canal at Kapoori village in Patiala
1990: Militants kill 35 labourers, 2 engineers; work stalled
1996: Haryana in SC for resumption
2002: Apex court directs Punjab to complete construction work
2004: Punjab Assembly annuls all water-sharing pacts
2016: Top court rules Punjab bound to share river waters
2017: Tells Punjab, Haryana to find out-of-court settlement
2019: Directs states to form panel
Fix deadline for early resolution
The people of Haryana have right over river waters… A deadline to resolve issue at the earliest must be fixed. — ML Khattar, Haryana CM
Can’t spare water
Punjab has no water to spare for Haryana. We’ll argue our case with facts in the Supreme Court. — Malwinder Kang, AAP spokesperson
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